Why Yammer’s default question is unhelpful

If you agree with me that the greatest value in organisational online discussion comes through answering questions, then Yammer’s default prompt does not help.

“What are you working on?” asks Yammer – as a work-related version of the Facebook question “What’s on your mind”.

As a way of getting people to share work-related activity, that’s a reasonable question, and pretty soon you will find your Yammer stream full of statements like

  • “I’m working on a new proposal”
  • “I’m getting ready to go on holiday”
  • “I’m finishing the assessment report”

For some people, that’s interesting connectivity, that helps them feel connected with co-workers. For others, that’s unwelcome Noise; stuff they didn’t need to know that distracts them from their own work. The risk is that the noise turns people off.

This blog has long championed the use of Knowledge Pull behaviours, and Knowledge seeking.  We know for example that Asking is tougher than sharing, but gives instant results. We know that the more questions that are asked in a Community of Practice, the more successful it is. We know that 75% to 90% of knowledge sharing comes as a response to a request for help. We (or I, at least) believe that an internal knowledge market is best grown through demand rather than through supply. And also  that Facebook is not a good analogue for in-house social media.

If you want to use a product like Yammer for knowledge sharing, then I can’t help thinking there’s got to be a better default prompt – one that drives Pull and not Push; one that develops the habit of Asking.

Maybe something like

“What knowledge do you need to help deliver your work?”
“What can your social network help you with today?”
“What question do you have for your network?”

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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